Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Power Struggle in Pudd'nhead Wilson

While reading Pudd'nhead Wilson, I have noticed that there is a huge power struggle between Roxy and Tom (who is actually her biological son). This also brings up the gender and position that these two characters are in and who really holds the power in their relationship. One of the first times that we see Roxy take control and really show how much power she has in on page 108-109, when she makes Tom get down on his knees and beg after she tells him about his true heritage and threatens to go to Judge Driscoll about the matter. This particular scene is important to understanding the struggle between the two characters because, for the first time, we see Roxy, an enslaved woman, take the upper-hand and almost switch the master-slave role with her son Tom.

Throughout the novel, we continue to see Roxy struggle for power over her masters. After Tom sells her in the slave-trade, she is put on a plantation where she works out in the cotton fields. Once Roxy sees her master beat a little girl for trying to share her food, Roxy becomes infuriated and explains to Tom, "All de hell-fire dat 'uz ever in my heart flame' up, en I snatch de stick outen his han' en laid him flat" (183). Again, we see Roxy take the upper-hand with her master and attempt to gain control.
I find it very interesting that Twain uses an enslaved woman for this role. She doesn't carry the docile role that many slaves in narrative embody, she is fighting to gain power and it seems as though she is trying to move up in societal classes. It makes me wonder if Twain himself struggled with issues of power, which compelled him to use a character that wasn't seen as a human being at the time to challenge this role within society? It also makes me wonder if he almost felt as though he was an enslaved person, almost trapped if you will, at the time?


  1. I completely agree with you. It's so interesting that you made the connection between Twain's one life and the way Roxy can be made to feel powerless by her masters. I do know that we've talked in class a few times about how Twain lost two of his children very young in their lives, and obviously felt very powerless over it. Roxy was able to save her son by switching him with the real "Tom".

  2. Ya it is interesting how Roxy has so much influence over Tom and how strong and authoritarian she is. That said perhaps she is trying to emulate the white people she admires so much. It is also interesting how the only strong woman in Twains novel is a slave

  3. Why did Twain only make Roxy the "strong" woman? She is a slave; is he commenting on how slave women were stronger than white, Anglo American women of the 19th century? I think he is. He even uses Chambers (the fake) to demonstrate the slaves' physical strength vs the masters physical ineptness.